Anita Swanson Speake’s story begins with a diagnosis: idiopathic cardiomyopathy. At sixty-five, she had just found out that her heart was dying.
When she got the news, she was in her late sixties. Her girls were raised and gone. Her three decades of high-stress nursing was behind her. She was living with her hopefully last, and certainly best, husband in a big, contemporary house with lots of glass on a lake in rural Northern California. She loved her life. But she didn’t love her scary new medical condition—or the many awful side effects of the medications her doctor promised would serve as a crutch for her heart. As she struggled with all this, Speake began to see herself as a member of the dying rather than the living. And over time, she began to ponder a new question: “Do I really want to get well?”
Heartsong takes readers on an often humorous, sometimes sad journey through the best of Western medicine, complemented by a sampling of alternative and Eastern support systems—and through Speake’s evolving relationship with God—as she navigates this transition. Ultimately, with the help of her doctors, a Reiki practitioner, a Mindfulness coach, and her deep, abiding faith, Speake found renewed purpose late in a changing life—and realized God was waiting there for her all along.
"In Heartsong Anita weaves a compelling story of faith, love, relationships, dreams, and tough choices in the midst of the challenges of living with a chronically sick heart. She helps us understand, through her experiences, that healing is a journey, often scary, frustrating, and mysterious. Reading her story reminded us that in the midst of pain and the unknown of heartache that joy is there, hope is there, beauty is there, and God is there, even though He seems veiled. I'm glad that Anita and 'G' made a right hand turn at Highway 29. It taught me that even in the midst of struggle that taking the scenic route is never a bad idea. 'Heartsong' is a book that lifts the spirit."
-Dr. Garry Zeek, Senior Pastor Grace Church of Kelseyville, CA
"One short chapter at a time, one irregular heartbeat at a time, Anita shares her life with us-honestly, humorously, unashamedly. What begins as the story of a cardiac patient's physical and emotional journey through heart disease ends up being a complicated ride through a lifetime of heartache. Swanson deftly traverses time; taking us back to her childhood, into the high-lights and low-lights of her various marriages, and through her years as a single mom working the nightshift in an ER. If it is possible for years of heart-pain to cause the physical organ of a heart to break, Anita's story quietly suggests that later years of love and faith can bind the heart up again, making it possible to finally truly live . . . while dying."
-Wendy Speake, co-author of Triggers and Life Creative
"In Heartsong, Anita Speake takes us on a journey that is quietly compelling and fiercely alive. She grapples with her faith as her health declines but never gives up on finding what will heal her. As she scours the past and pulls us into the present, we are drawn in by her infectious humor and lovely, clear-sighted storytelling. Heartsong is a beautiful story of how one woman survives, thrives, and embraces humor in even the most painful days of her diagnosis."
-Melissa Cistaro, author of Pieces of My Mother